How Tom Wilson learned a family secret from a stranger

An encounter with a stranger changed Tom Wilson's life...and had him questioning everything.

Encounters with Strangers

When DNTO headed to Hamilton, Ontario for a live show, there was one guest we definitely wanted on the bill.

Canadian music legend and famed storyteller Tom Wilson of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Junkhouse and LeE HARVeY OsMOND, grew up in Steeltown and still lives there. 

But when we asked him to come on the show and share the story of a life-changing encounter with a stranger we never expected a story like this. You can listen to the story in Tom's voice - the first time he has ever spoken about this publicly - or keep on reading. 
Two years ago, when Tom Wilson was heading out on a speaking tour, he met up with a handler and got into a limo. She told him she was a big fan and then said something that caught him a little off guard. 

"You don't know this but your family and my family were best friends," she told him. And went on to explain that her grandmother and mother were close to his mom. 

"I said that's impossible because my household was really shut down," Wilson continued. "My father was blinded in the Second World War and my parents were older."

He said only two people regularly got into their house, a neighbour who had been a TV wrestler, and an uncle who was a Mohawk from Kahnawake.

But when the woman told Wilson her family member's names, he was surprised.

"They were, in fact, the only people outside of relatives who got in. I recognized the name, her grandmother was the only friend in Hamilton that my mother had, that she let in the house."

But what the woman said to him next was even more shocking.

"Yes, in fact they were so close, they were there when you were adopted."

tom wilson300.jpgWilson asked her to repeat what she'd said and told her he didn't know anything about being adopted. 

"That moment changed my life," he said.

"I'm a big, old, biker looking middle-aged Hamilton guy. And I started to cry. I think I called my daughter, I didn't know what to do."

So he decided to take his time - two years in fact - processing the information and doing some research.

Wilson said learning the people who raised him weren't his biological parents made their devotion to him even more meaningful.

"The people who brought me up were the most wonderful people on the earth and finding this out only opened my heart up more to them," he said.

In his 55th birthday in June, Wilson was driving his cousin home from the party and he decided to tell her. 

"And I said to her, 'You're the only person alive who can help me with this.'" 

Wilson said he stopped the car and she broke down.

"I don't know how to tell you this, but I'm your mother," she said. 

Wilson said she asked for his forgiveness, which he told her wasn't necessary. And was amazed a family member he's known and been close to his whole life is someone he now has an even deeper connection to. 

For Wilson, it also changed how he identifies himself, and clarified something that always set him apart. "I thought that I was always Irish and French, and I'm actually Mohawk. And I always wondered why I looked a little different from the other kids at school."


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